Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Winnipeg Health Care: Change for Change’s Sake

I’ve been following the plans for changes in health care delivery in Winnipeg with more than a little dismay. Is there a rationale for moving health care facilities hither and yon, for doing away with the 24-7 Urgent Care Facility at the Misericordia Hospital or eliminating the 24-7 Emergency Facility from the Concordia Hospital? Or are these changes, and perhaps a number of others that are being contemplated for the health care system, being instituted for change’s sake or, perhaps more honestly, to give administrators a chance to flex their muscles by moving services from one place to another just because they can?

I ask these questions because the alterations to our health care system that are taking place right now make no sense. On the contrary, they run counter to what one would expect in a system that purports to provide readily accessible care for everyone: hospitals and clinics strategically placed throughout the city, offering a wide array of services that people may need during the course of their lifetimes.

Not only do these changes make no sense they are a detriment to providing timely health care to those who need it. By timely, I mean in as quick and efficacious manner as possible. An obvious way to do that is to increase the number of facilities available, certainly not reduce them. But as we have seen, that’s not what’s happening. Quite the reverse is true.

And it’s not only emergency rooms that are being closed. Some quick care clinics—clinics that were designed to meet the unexpected health care needs that arise from time to time during the course of our lives—have already been closed. And there is talk of eliminating them entirely.

So now we are not only confronted by the closing of the emergency facilities at the Misericordia and Concordia Hospitals, facilities that between them regularly care for more than 60,000 people each year, but we are also threatened with the elimination, of quick care facilities with the expectation that the clientele who need the services of these facilities will easily be able to make their way to the Health Sciences Centre or St Boniface Hospital should the need arise. And somewhere in there is the implicit assumption—and it is a tenuous assumption—that these facilities will be able to handle the enormous increase in the number of clientele in a timely manner.

And, oh yes, did I mention Winnipeg’s growing population? The population increased by more than six percent last year and Winnipeg is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada. More people invariably means more need for all sorts of services—medical services included. Yet, as we have seen, the people in charge of the medical system seem intent on reducing the number of sites where medical care can be obtained.

What this means is that coming to your neighborhood very soon is a dearth of health care facilities. If you have a minor injury, and live in the “wrong” place, instead of walking, you’ll have to drive or take a bus to the least faraway walk-in clinic that still exists. No car? Not enough money for bus fare? Worried about your injury which may be a minor one but maybe not? You’ll have to call 911 to get an ambulance.

But be forewarned, there will be a wait time for the ambulance to arrive and then more time to travel to one of the health care facilities that still has retained its emergency room and then, once there, another lengthy wait time exacerbated by the increased number of patients needing to be examined and treated. The term hallway medicine might very well take on a personal meaning for you but look on the bright side, you will be on the front lines of change, the change for change sake.

(c) David Koulack 2017

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